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New report details crimes caught on CPD surveillance cameras

A new report from the Columbia Police Department lists the crimes surveillance cameras downtown caught to help police solve crimes.

The report, on the Columbia City Council’s agenda for Monday, comes after ABC 17 News and Councilwoman Laura Nauser asked to see the cameras effectiveness following an October shooting in downtown Columbia – across the street from one of the surveillance cameras at East Broadway and Hitt Street.

While the report does not say whether it caught the shooting on camera, or if it aided in their arrest of a suspect, it provides a look into what the department has used the cameras for since their installation in 2011.

The report shows 52 different crimes where the eight surveillance cameras at four intersections caught useful evidence for a crime, including assaults and shootings. However, only lists 12 arrests, and doesn’t say whether the case led to a conviction. Many of the cases associated with an arrest were for liquor law violations, littering and often items only called a “disturbance.”

Police Chief Ken Burton did not respond to an email Sunday to discuss the report.

Nauser said the new report did little to change her mind on the issue of surveillance cameras, one she opposed at their introduction in 2009. An initiative petition led to the issue’s placement on the April 2010 ballot, where 58.8% of voters approved it. CPD said then the cameras cost $75,000 the first year of operation.

Police do not monitor the live footage from the surveillance cameras, the report details. Instead, they “are only monitored when there is a call for service from a location where a camera can see, when officers are responding to an incident in the camera’s viewshed, or during targeted times and places when/where incidents frequently occur.”

The department said in the report they feel the cameras help deter crime in the area, but believe their effectiveness is limited by the amount.

“A larger and more dense system in a heavily used public area, such as downtown, would provide a better deterrent to criminal activity in that area as well as increase the probability that cameras could aid in surveillance, pursuits, and investigations,” the report reads.

Nauser, concerned with privacy downtown and the amount of crime actually solved, hoped the city and department would use money to fund other police services.

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